GWEN IFILL, "WASHINGTON WEEK" MODERATOR: The difference between talking and doing when it comes to terrorism, immigration and running for president -- tonight on WASHINGTON WEEK.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All of us have a responsibility to refute the notion that groups like ISIL somehow represent Islam because that is a falsehood that embraces the terrorist narrative.
IFILL (voice-over): A war against terrorism devolves into a war about definition.
REP. STEVE KING (R), NEW YORK: These are Islamic extremists. These aren't animal lovers. These aren't environmental advocates.
IFILL: Why this war is about so much more than boots on the ground.
At home, a federal judge in Texas halts the president's immigration reform plan, delaying action in 26 states.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: We cannot fail our fellow Texans. We must do what the federal government has failed to do. We must secure our border.
IFILL: And Jeb Bush steps into the deep end of the pool making a case for the kind of president he would be.
JEB BUSH (R), FORMER FLORIDA GOVERNOR: Each president learns from those who came before -- their principles, their adjustments. One thing we know is this: every president inherits a changing world and changing circumstances.
IFILL: But can he escape the shadows cast by his father and his brother?
Covering the week, Michael Crowley, senior foreign affairs correspondent for "Politico", Nancy Youssef, senior national security correspondent for "The Daily Beast," Pete Williams, justice correspondent for NBC News, and John Dickerson, chief political correspondent and political director for "Slate" and CBS.
ANNOUNCER: Award-winning reporting and analysis. Covering history as it happens. Live from our nation's capitol, this is WASHINGTON WEEK with Gwen Ifill.
Once again, live from Washington, moderator Gwen Ifill.
IFILL: Good evening.
The week in terror began early on Saturday with shootings in Copenhagen. It took a horrific turn the next day with the release of a video showing the beheadings of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians, and then within 24 hours, armed retaliation from Egypt. What better time, then, for a White House summit on extremism, albeit one that demonstrated how degrading ISIS is more complicated than it seems. The problem, as the president sees it, is that the terrorists also known as the Islamic State are desperate for legitimacy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: They try to portray themselves as religious leaders, holy warriors in defense of Islam. That's why ISIL presumes to declare itself the Islamic State. We must never accept the premise that they put forward because it is a lie.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
IFILL: The problem, as the president's critics see it, is that the White House refuses to use the label "Islamic terrorism", and therein lies part of the explanation of why the challenge presented by ISIS is so multilayered, Michael.
MICHAEL CROWLEY, POLITICO: It really is. The president is sticking to his guns on this one. It's interesting because back in September, the White House was criticized for not saying we were at war with ISIS and they didn't want that political fight and stepped back and said, fine, we're at war, this is not a fight we want to have.
In this case, the president stuck to his guns. I think he believes strongly, three reasons here, not to use the language people want him to use and stick with more generic language, violent extremism.
One, is don't give ISIS the fight that it wants. You heard him saying that in that clip just there. Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, who is the, you know, the self proclaimed caliph wants to appear to be leading Muslims in this apocalyptic war against the West and Christianity and Obama doesn't want to play on those terms, doesn't want to enhance his standing and accept his frame.
The other is that we have to be very sensitive about the perception in the Muslim world that there is some degree of kind of anti-Muslim animus in the United States, that is there is some kind of war against Muslims and that America cares less about Muslim lives, is quicker to bomb Muslim countries. I think that's a sensitivity.
The third, I think the president sincerely believes something that is statistically true which is that terrorism and violent extremism in this country is not predominantly Muslim. We have all kinds of terror attacks by people of all stripes. You have Christian radicals, people who have all kinds of obscure agendas. There’s a guy who flew a small plane into a building I think in Arizona several years ago.
So, a lot of this extremism that we want to target people who may be starting to lose it, people who we want communities to be keeping an eye on, are not necessarily Muslim.
IFILL: Nancy, at this extremely summit at the White House this week, there were representatives of countries from all over the world, how did they address this problem?
NANCY YOUSSEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, it’s interesting, in the region, the term that's used is Daesh, which is the Arabic acronym for Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant. The people in the summit were asking for a more nuanced discussion.
In the region, you'll hear a lot of discussion about the interpretation of Islam, because they’re bombarded with messaging from ISIS, that they are defending the state. And so, it's interesting the kind of dialogue happening in the region. It's not about the name or whether or not it's extremist because it's a Muslim-dominated society but how and who can interpret the faith.
We saw this with the killing of the Jordanian pilot, Lieutenant Kaseasbeh when King Abdullah came out and said he was defending Islam, not the terrorists. We saw this with Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the president of Egypt when he came out and said that we need to come up with a way to reclaim the faith.
And so, it's interesting, here we talked about the language and there, they're really talking about the religion and who and who can claim to own its message.
JOHN DICKERSON, CBS NEWS: Michael, this debate in the White House was kind of taken over by the semantics question. But what was actually accomplished with this meeting?
CROWLEY: I think that's a good question. Very little. I don't think you're going to see big policy changes coming out of it. You know, ahead of the summit, there was some reporting about how the State Department is increasing its efforts at social media outreach and trying to promote moderate messages and that is obviously a very worthy and important mission. But the dollar figures are trivial and what you're talking about is tweeting is sending links around.
IFILL: Which is not the heart of the problem.
CROWLEY: It's not the heart of the problem. We are also trying to get moderate preachers in the Muslim world to promote a more moderate message and that can work to some degree, but you'll also hear from the region that some of the people who are mostly likely to do that are seen as pawns of the government that groups like ISIS are already fighting. So, it’s really hard.
PETE WILLIAMS, NBC NEWS: Nancy, how ISIS is militarily doing, though? It seems they're making gains in Iraq?
YOUSSEF: So, we heard this week from the Pentagon they plan to go after them in Mosul, which is Iraq's second biggest city, the place where the coalition was sort of born after ISIS was able to move in and take the city on June 10th of last year. The Pentagon said this week it would take 25,000 Iraqi and Kurdish troops to take on 2,000 Islamic State fighters in a city in which they're deeply entrenched, in which they own most of the land, they've literally got trenches and barriers, they charge taxes for residents and they provide security. So, it will be the most challenging battle to reclaim the country from the Islamic State.
WILLIAMS: Just quickly ask -- normally, the Pentagon likes the element of surprise. Why are they talking about this in advance?
YOUSSEF: Well, there are a lot of different theories that came out of the building this week. One of them was that they didn't release anything tactical. The other is that they want to let ISIS know that they are going to face a threat. The third theory is that they wanted to bolster the Iraqi army and Iraqi government and sort of encourage them and let them know they were backed by the United States and that they were going to go in and fight and sort of -- that this was going to be a national effort to reclaim the city.
IFILL: You know, one of the things I found interesting about the debate about the terminology and also about this conference, Michael, was that we don't know how to use the language of conventional warfare in an unconventional war and that seems to be at the root of a lot of the layers of discussion about how complicated this idea of degrading and defeating ISIS is.
CROWLEY: Yes. And, you know, the State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf got in trouble or let’s say caused controversy earlier this week when she said you can't kill your way out of this problem, we can't just keep killing them and she suggested that economic development and other measures were really important to solving the long-term problem. And she --
IFILL: Which actually is what we heard Susan Rice and other people and the president getting to, as well.
CROWLEY: I think that was also a position of George W. Bush and others in his administration. It's not a crazy thing to say. It may not have been the most ideally articulate way to frame it, but it goes to this idea that this is a very complicated conflict. It's not just a simple battlefield where we may recapture Mosul and that would be great, but there are so many elements to it. And so, it just makes for a more complicated debate and, of course, people are going to get tripped up in semantics and we're going to have partisan controversy as a result.
DICKERSON: Remember, in the Bush administration, they tried to rename suicide bombing as homicide bombing, as a way to try and change --
IFILL: That didn’t stick, as I recall.
DICKERSON: That didn't stick, either. Michael, you talked about how the map of the fight is changing and different. Was there talk about domestic U.S. terrorism or, you know, lone wolves showing up in the United States?
CROWLEY: Yes, I actually think that, to me, it's a slightly more practically addressable problem, which is that the global problem is so vast but here at home, what can the government do to try to reach out and integrate its law enforcement efforts in communities that they think are vulnerable to this kind of recruitment.
But the problem is, it's so sensitive and difficult. You know, we think about this conference attacked by conservatives on the right who say you're not using the right language. There's a lot of blow-back. I wrote about this, this week for "Politico" -- from civil liberties groups and Muslim groups in the United States saying, you're essentially trying to create new forms of surveillance and infiltrate our communities under the guise of this warm and fuzzy outreach, but inevitably, you're targeting, you’re surveilling us. So, it gets complicated and controversial very fast.
IFILL: Nancy, in the region, especially after something like this, the beheadings that happened in Libya, right there on the Mediterranean Coast, a stone's throw as it were from Italy, has this radicalized or got the attention of countries who basically thought this wasn't their problem?
YOUSSEF: Well, it's interesting. In this case, it was Egyptians that were killed. And before this, Egypt wasn't officially part of the 60-member coalition and their argument was, we don't need to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, we’ve got the Islamic State in the Sinai, in the east, and in Libya, on our western border. And frankly, USA, we need your support in that fight and the U.S. has been hesitant.
And so, what it really exposed is the debate of what defines the Islamic State. The United States will say that the Islamic state is not in Libya because these are just groups taking the name and inspired by them and aren't necessarily members but for --
IFILL: Is that a difference without a distinction? I mean, Boko Haram is not technically the Islamic State but it’s certainly inspired in the same bloody kind of way.
YOUSSEF: Right. What constitutes a caliphate terror state? The Egyptians will say there's no difference. So, what we saw the U.S. hesitant to say this was a strike against Libya, because this is the other complication.
The U.S. strategy say we need a political solution to stabilize Libya, not outside states intervening, and the Egyptians are saying, this is an existential threat to us. We cannot just let it go. And so, it's fascinating, the sort of push-pull. On one hand, we want a diplomatic and a political solution, and levers of democracy to solve this, and at the same time, in Iraq and Syria, the U.S. is using primarily military means.
IFILL: Is there a diplomatic solution that was put on the table or at least floated this week?
IFILL: For how the global community should be handling this?
CROWLEY: Well, there's a political concept that the president articulated. And he essentially said one of the key long-term solutions here is democracy, political freedom, that when you have repression, radicalism festers.
But -- and it's interesting because there's a school of thought that says actually what you need in the Middle East is strong men and we may not like them but people are nostalgic for Gaddafi and for Saddam. It’s a tragic thing.
But the president really reinforced that message that no, that's not the answer because that can stabilize in the short term but in the long term creates more resentment and radicalism.
IFILL: OK, thank you both.
Now to the courts. A federal judge in Texas set the stage this week for the next challenge to the president's executive power. The issue at hand: Mr. Obama's decision to expand protections for millions of undocumented immigrants. The technique, arguing against the administrative underpinning of the president's plan. The result: a delay for the program that was supposed to go in effect this week.
Pete, what was the judge's reasoning on all of this?
WILLIAMS: Well, in simple terms, he said the government went too far, that it was making the law instead of applying it.
Now, the administration's argument has been that it was merely setting enforcement priorities, that it was letting these undocumented adults stay if they had children who were in the United States legally, but what the judge said -- and they said, by the way, they had to do this because they have limited resources and they wanted to focus on the biggest concerns, people who were criminals and potential terrorists.
But what the judge said is, this isn’t just turning -- the government isn’t just turning its back on these people who are here illegally. It’s actually affirmatively reacting out to them. It’s allowing them it’s saying, you know, you will not be deported for the next three years, it’s allowing them to get Social Security numbers, it’s allowing them to get work permits and that changes their status.
Now, the administration's opponents had claimed that this is unconstitutional, that the president went too far, and they hoped the judge would base his ruling on that but he didn't go that far. What he said is that the reason he put a stay on it that is a rule change and when you change rules, you have to seek public comment, you have notice and comment, and that is why it had to be stopped.
IFILL: Almost like a technicality.
WILLIAMS: Very much a technicality. And that is why he put it on hold until the whole case is worked out.
IFILL: I thought the White House was casual in their reaction to this. So, we're going to appeal this and we saw this coming because of who this judge is.
WILLIAMS: Well, there is something to that. There did seem a little bit of forum shopping here and going to a judge who is in South Texas who has had it up to here with immigration problems and I don't think they were surprised that they got this ruling out of him. And, you know, they knew whatever was going to happen would be appealed by one side or the other anyway.
DICKERSON: Who is doing the forum shopping? Who are the injured parties here?
WILLIAMS: Well, there were 26 states who filed this lawsuit. Now, interestingly, the judge said only one of them actually have the standing, the right to bring this lawsuit and that was Texas.
And he said basically that the problem for Texas is they will be issuing driver's licenses to all these new people and that costs Texas a lot of money and it’s inconvenient.
IFILL: So, this ruling is narrower than it looked?
WILLIAMS: Yes, because he said, you know, maybe the other states have standing. I’m not going to get to that. I am saying that for sure Texas has standing and it’s because of the license plate issue. That is the basis of the ruling.
YOUSSEF: You said a lot of legal twists and turns. So, what does this mean for the appeal? Where do you think things stand in terms of the appeal? What should we expect?
WILLIAMS: I would say the next few days, the government will go to the fifth circuit court of appeals in Louisiana, and they will ask for an emergency stay on the judge's ruling. So, it's a block of the block. That would mean that the law could go into effect, and it was just this past week when people could start registering for this program and the administration wants to get this going.
IFILL: How many people are we talking about, do you know?
WILLIAMS: Well, we’re talking potentially about 3 million or 4 million people this could potentially cover. And, of course, there was also little noticed, the other part of the judge's ruling was the other part of the immigration program, which was expanding the original DREAM Act, so-called DACA, it would cover more people. The judge also put a hold on that, and there were also applications for that.
So, the government wants to get that going again and hope they can get the Fifth Circuit to at least let this go on while the legal fight continues.
CROWLEY: And is there any kind of consensus among the constitutional scholars and legal geeks about how solid this ruling is? What were the holes might be that they poke in it?
WILLIAMS: Well, interesting, both liberal and conservative legal scholars have been somewhat critical of this opinion. One of the problems is that immigration law and the enforcement of the law has been the province of the federal government and the states really don't have much wherewithal or legal right to challenge it. It would be a little like states going to court to challenge the administration's foreign policy.
So, that is a potential problem here and then this whole theory about the notice and comment period may not be rock solid, either.
IFILL: But does it inadvertently provide basis for a broader challenge for the president's executive action which is really what his critics and conservative scholars want to do?
WILLIAMS: Well, remember, this fight this week was just about an injunction. The lawsuit itself, the straight-up attack on the president's constitutionability is still pending. So, the judge has yet to rule on that.
And let's face it, there are going to be other lawsuits and this eventually will get to the Supreme Court.
IFILL: OK, thanks, Pete.
There are many sticky questions to be answered before the 2016 presidential contest gets into full swing, like -- what does Scott Walker really think about Rudy Giuliani? Or how will the Democrats manage Bill Clinton? What does Barbara Bush really think about Jeb?
The former Florida governor sat to tackle at least one of those questions this week during his first big pre-campaign foreign policy speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Look, just for the record one more time -- I love my brother, I love my dad, and I admire their service to the nation and the difficult decisions that they had to make. But I’m my own man and my views are shaped by my own thinking and my own experiences.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
IFILL: Clearly, this declaration happened for a reason. What it was, John?
DICKERSON: Gwen, I love my brother and my dad, too. Just so you know.
IFILL: Mine as well.
DICKERSON: You know, usually in politics when you have to declare you're your own man, it's a problem because somebody suggesting there's a Rasputin behind the curtain, or there are puppet strings. In this case, though, it’s a very special case. His father and his brother were presidents and so, what he's trying to rush out from under their shadows. And that’s for two reasons.
One, President George W. Bush is still not that popular. The Iraq war, with which he's associated, is quite unpopular. And so, there’s also something else -- which is people don't want to think people are skating into the White House on a famous name and Jeb Bush wants to rattle people and say, pay attention, because in the end people get excited about ideas and a message.
If they just think he's the next Bush in line, there's nothing for them to put their hooks in.
So, shake them, awaken them, say, I'm my own man, listen to me.
IFILL: Does Hillary Clinton kind of have to do the same thing in a different sort of way? If people are truly -- what we're seeing here is that people are exhausted by the dynastic nature of this campaign?
DICKERSON: Well, she has a couple of problems. She’s got the shadow of her husband that she has to deal with and then her attachment to the existing White House which has its own complexity, and particularly on foreign policy, has a lot of complexity because she essentially has to answer for a complicated world and what we heard from Jeb Bush in this speech was, a lot of clarity. America needs to be strong. It needs to do what it says, it needs strong alliances, it needs a strong economy with 4 percent growth that handles entitlements, that spends more on defense, and that spends more on research and development.
This speech had everything for everyone in it and if you campaign, Republicans -- traditionally in the polls, people think Republicans can handle foreign policy better. If you say basically, I can solve the world, Hillary Clinton is stuck with the messy world that she was a part of trying to fix as a secretary of state.
WILLIAMS: So, how is he different from his brother?
DICKERSON: Based on this speech -- indistinguishable, because the speech was a very vague speech. It was early in a campaign. He's not going to lay out his 10 -- five-point plan. He talked about some principles, as I mentioned, but they were just generally something everybody would love.
And if you look at the speech, it is indistinguishable from his brother, his father and basically mainstream Republican thinking about we need -- America needs to be strong. Although he did talk about balance and patience which are words Barack Obama uses with respect to foreign policy and for which he's usually pilloried.
One thing he did -- there are two other things. One, the advisers he mentioned -- they put out a list of advisers to him and that he's talking to about foreign policy.
WILLIAMS: That’s a lot of former Bush people, right?
DICKERSON: I mean, they are people who are so familiar -- more familiar with the Bushes than the gardeners at Versailles. I mean, this was a group of --
IFILL: Who else are you going to select from, however, who have experience?
DICKERSON: That’s exactly right. These are the last two Republican presidents.
DICKERSON: If you chose people not associated with the Bush family, they wouldn't fill this table.
So -- and finally, though, he did mention, Jeb Bush said there were mistakes made in Iraq. He said, one, the security situation after Saddam fell was bad, it created a vacuum and he also said it was bad that weapons of mass destruction weren't found. People thought it was creating distance with his brother. It's what his brother has said in his own book.
YOUSSEF: John, if he didn’t say anything specific and it’s not real how he’s different, what was the political benefit of such a speech?
DICKERSON: It’s a great question. The political benefit was he looked confident. He knew his brief. He knew that Tunisia was doing better than other Arab Spring states. He knew the president of Egypt. He knew -- he sounded confident and at this stage and Barack Obama proved this -- remember, he was a freshman senator with no executive experience -- if you sound confident, if you look like you know what you're talking about, then voters will say, oh, hey, he can be president.
IFILL: He knew more than his brother knew at a similar point in the campaign?
DICKERSON: In November of 1999, you’ll remember George W. Bush was asked those five pop quiz questions about the leaders of the free world, he only got one right. Relative to where his brother was in 1999, in the later period in the campaign, Jeb Bush is miles ahead of him.
CROWLEY: But, John, say what you will -- about him, but I think Marco Rubio would ace that pop quiz. He's been on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has learned up and he came out right after Bush's speech and gave an interview and kind of raise his hand and tell people what he said and what that means to the presidential race.
DICKERSON: That’s right. An interview in "Politico" and he basically said, I know I was right on the Syria, on Libya on, Russia. He was basically saying, as much as Barack Obama did in 2008 when he said I was right about the Iraq war, he was sayings, I was prescient and, therefore, I should be commander-in-chief.
There's a big debate in the Republican Party about senators who may know the issues but governors who have that executive experience. A lot of people think that’s the most important thing.
IFILL: And that's the question we're going to wait to see what sorts out, because they’ve got a lot of governors or people who are thinking about running who are governors. So, we’ll see.
We have to go now. But as always, the conversation will continue online on the WASHINGTON WEEK Webcast Extra where we'll talk among other things, about that Rudy Giuliani question I asked about earlier, John. You can find out that later tonight and all week long at PBS.org/WashingtonWeek.
Keep up with developments with me and Judy Woodruff on the "PBS NEWSHOUR" and we'll see you here next week on WASHINGTON WEEK.